NGR: SD 41093 61591. At the corner of Main Street in Heysham, Lancashire, and just down the slope from St Peter’s Church is St Patrick’s Well (also known as Church Well). It is built into the wall at the side of the street at the bottom of the rectory garden (Glebe Garden). However, it would seem that it has never been a holy well despite being named after the Irish patron saint, but merely ‘a spring’ that was used by the local church, St Peter’s, and its rectory. Perhaps it should be called St Peter’s Well. The village, it would seem, needed the divine help of a great saint such as St Patrick and, after all the ruined Saxon chapel on the headland above the parish church already bore his name. Today, in the rectangular-shaped arched walled recess above two stone steps and pebble-filled basin there is a hand-operated pump contraptiuon, but whether this still pumps water is anyone’s guess – though it might do!? The present structure only dates from the early 1900s but it stands in the place of an earlier 18th Century well that had collapsed. It is Grade II listed. Heysham is a very attractive village situated about 1¾ miles to the southwest of Morecambe on the A589.
The ‘British Listed Buildings’ website has the following information: “Well head. Possibly C18. Well set in a roughly semi-circular recess in a rubble retaining wall, spanned by a lintel. The kerb stone at the front of the wall is level with the top of a second lower wall which contains a recess with two steps in front of the well.” See their website: https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo
Eileen J. Dent (2003) says of St Patrick that: “The popular myth that St Patrick came to Heysham can be discounted by his “Confessions” written towards the end of his life:
“‘Wherefore then, even if I wished to leave them to go to Britain–and how I would have loved to visit my country and my parents and also Gaul in order to visit my brethren and to see the face of the saints of my Lord. God knows it that I desired it, but I am bound by the Spirit, who gives evidence against me if I do this, telling me that I shall be guilty; and I am afraid of losing the labour which I have begun – nay, not I but Christ the Lord who bade me come here and stay with them for the rest of my life, if the Lord will, and will guard me from every evil way that I may not sin before Him.”’
“This was St Patrick’s reply to his fellow bishops who had criticised him for remaining in Ireland and not evangelizing abroad.”
Ken Fields (1987) tells us that: “A saint whose name has become linked with holy wells is the patron of Ireland, Saint Patrick. Little is known about his early life before he rose to become the great missionary, but we have a tradition that an important episode in his youth occurred on the north-west coast.
“Patrick was born about AD385 of noble stock at a place named Banavem Taberniae, which some people say is the village of Bewcastle near Carlisle. The story of his capture by pirates while still a boy, and his imprisonment in Ireland is well docu-mented. Just how he managed to escape by sea and was subsequently ship-wrecked is less well known and his landing place is not documented at all. Some historians claim it was Gaul, but others disagree, pointing to what is now part of the Lancashire coast as a likely spot. It is at a point close to lovely Hey-sham Village that the young Patrick is said to have landed; a stony bank visible only at low water is still known as St Patrick’s Skier. The ruin of an ancient chapel on the cliff edge marks the spot where he came ashore and alongside are some unusual graves hewn out of the rock. Now empty these probably once held the bodies of monks. After his landing at Heysham, the weary saint began the long journey home on foot. The route he took can still be followed on a map, for many of his stopping places recall his name. At Hest Bank, a few miles north of Heysham lies the first St. Patrick’s Well, a place where the holy man stopped to drink. Near the small town of Milnthorpe lies Preston Patrick, and the magnificent valley of Patterdale in the heart of Lakeland was originally St. Patrick’s Dale. Patterdale church is dedicated to the saint, and on the road to nearby Glenridding is yet another St. Patrick’s Well. The village of Bampton near Haweswater, has a pub named St. Patrick’s Well, and its Anglican church is one of only ten in all England dedicated to the saint. North of Maryport, lies the town of Aspatria, which is said to be yet another settlement derived from his name. Thus it is possible to travel northwards from Heysham, following in the saint’s footsteps through some of our most attractive countryside. Here is a link with a journey that took place sixteen centuries ago.”
There used to be another well in Heysham which was called Sainty Well or Saintly Well, but this was capped and covered over in recent times. This second ‘holy well’ is now on private land half-way along St Mary’s Road, Heysham. See History of Heysham website Link: http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html
Sources / References & Related Websites:
‘British Listed Buildings’ website Link: https://britishlistedbuildings.co.uk/101355054-st-patricks-well-lancaster-heysham-central-ward#.XqoLVlLsZjo
Dent, Eileen J., Heysham − a History, The Rector and Parochial Church Council of St Peter’s Church, Heysham, and Heysham Heritage Association, 2003.
Fields, Ken, The Mysterious North, Countryside Publications, 1987.
‘History of Heysham’ website Link: http://www.sandhak.co.uk/html/history_of_heysham.html
© Ray Spencer, The Journal of Antiquities, 2020.